Standardized Testing: What's Our Priority?

Author's note: This post is a fragmented collection of my thoughts based on the Ken Robinson video I posted earlier today, an op-ed from NPR (see the link below), and a conversation I had with another Nebraska teacher.

Standardized testing, I fear, is creating a generation of test-taking robots who have little to no capacity for creativity or critical thinking. What standardized testing often does is strip critical thinking down into a multiple guess testing method. Why? Because it's easier to grade and monitor. I understand that we have to find ways to monitor student learning, student growth---and the easiest way to do this is by objective testing that can be scored by a machine. I understand that our country's education leaders are feeling the pressure to catch up with South Korea, Japan, China, and other countries. I read an op-ed on NPR's website a few weeks ago that ranted about our country falling behind to other countries and the need to "restore excellence to America's schools" (Rothkopf). And while I agree with what much of Rothkopf is arguing for, I don't understand why we would stoop to this level of standardized testing in order to "restore excellence to America's schools." Sure these tests may close the gap between us and South Korea, but this also encourages conformity in students. One of its priorities is to get students to perform at the same level: proficient. There are many problems with this: who determines what proficient is? And does a multiple guess test measure proficiency? Do we see students' thought process on an assessment where they click a series of boxes or fill in a series of bubbles? So what is our priority: creating a generation of creative, critical thinkers or creating a generation of students who can make educated guesses? Sadly, I believe our country's focus is the later. I fear what public education may look like in 20 years. I hope teachers, students, parents and government leaders will rise up and continue to fight against this. Doing what's easiest (creating a test that can be scored by a machine that will ultimately decide if schools, teachers, and students are proficient and successful) isn't always doing what's best.

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